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New WVU men's basketball assistant Mike Maker has a good base to build upon as he begins learning the John Beilein system.

Maker, who was associate head coach at Dartmouth before moving to Samford, helped install, plan and run an offense similar, yet not identical, to the John Beilein attack that the Mountaineers used to successfully navigate their way to the Elite Eight last month. With that base of knowledge, the 17-year assistant believes he should be able to get up to speed a bit more quickly than a coach coming into the system cold.

"We ran similar concepts at Dartmouth and Samford to what WVU runs," said the enthusiastic coach. "The terminology will be the major difference - it's kind of like going from English to Russian. For example, when I came to Samford, I might say "pop" instead of "over" to describe a particular move. Then everyone would look at me and say 'Pop? What is that?' So I think that will be the biggest adjustment."

Maker has the experience of moving to Samford three years ago to help him in this new move, and he believes that switch, plus his familiarity with many of the concepts of the offense, will help make the transition a smooth one.

"When I came to Samford, the first thing I had to do was learn to say the word 'ya'll', Maker joked. "So I already know that. But seriously, I like to think my experience will make it a quick transition. I hate to put a timeframe on it, but I will lock myself in the film room, roll up my sleeves and learn. I want to fit in at West Virginia. I am very conscious of the roles that have already been established there, and I want to make it a smooth transition. I have a lot to learn in order to catch up, and I hope to be able to contribute soon."

Those views of the Mountaineers on tape won't be Maker's first looks at the Gold and Blue in action, however. Due to the similarities between the offenses, Maker already has at least a nodding familiarity with some of the things WVU runs.

"We have a West Virginia file here at Samford," Maker admitted with a laugh. "We've been taping their games for a while. People know that, and they know what a John Beilein fan I am, so I even got calls when West Virginia wins."

While a great deal of the focus is on assimilating Beilein's unique offensive system, there's also the defensive end to think about. Maker's familiarity with the 1-3-1 and WVU's defensive schemes is far less than that of the offense, but he still believes he will be in a position to contribute on that end of the floor.

"The 1-3-1, well, [Coach Beilein] has those secrets locked in a vault," Maker joked. "I will have to start learning that. He gets a lot of credit for his offense, but the defensive schemes have kept teams off balance and allowed them to control the game and the pace of play."

Maker's teams employed a different defensive philosophy, but it's one which possesses elements that could be adapted to WVU's use.

"We adopted the matchup zone that Joe Scott used at Air Force, and they went to the NCAAs with it," Maker explained. "Just like Coach Beilein's defenses, the design was to keep teams off balance.

"I feel that I am going to learn so much about the game, and after a month or two, I think I will be able to contribute and make something better. If I think something from another defense or something we did [at Samford or Dartmouth] can transition to what we are doing here, I will speak up."

The third arm of basketball coaching is recruiting, and it is here that Maker also hopes to help quickly. Although he will be recruiting a higher skill level than he did in the Ivy League, Maker notes that there will be enough similiarities in the process to help him hit the ground running.

"We recruited nationally at Dartmouth, and did the same at Samford," Maker said in pointing out that he is not bound by a regional recruiting tag. "I welcome the challenge of recruting. We made the jump here at Samford from the Atlantic Sun to the Ohio Valley Conference, and everyone said we'd be overmatched, but we finished fourth in the conference . I am not intimidated by the challenge at all. We will have to look for higher athleticism, but we'll still be recruiting on the same principles."

One look at the Samford roster, which included only one instate player last year and was dotted with players from Arizona. Louisiana, Oklahoma, New York, Mississippi, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky, bears out his assertion that he is comfortable recruiting anywhere. His enthusiasm, which is also readily apparent, seems to make him an excellent choice for the recruiting role as well.

"I take pride in recruiting," Maker said as he got on a roll with the topic. "I think it takes a keen eye to fit in with what Coach Beilein likes. I look at skill level, intelligence and the character of the player. It's not an exact science, but I think I am able to distinguish those things."

That Maker has an eye for the same types of qualities that Beilein wants is shown in his relationship with his new boss over the past few years. Maker says he has alerted WVU to players that were above the level of the Ivy League or Atlantic Sun level, and in return has gotten a heads-up from Beilein on players that would fit well at that level.

"Samford is recruiting a player right now from the Richmond area that West Virginia told us about," Maker detailed. "We look for the same types of qualities in players."

Just as, it seems, Beilein did in selecting his new assistant.

In case you missed it, Part One of our interview with Mike Maker is available here.


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